Adding Rod Thorn as an Executive Will Improve the Washington Wizards
The hiring of longtime executive Rod Thorn should help the Wizards usher in a successful new era.
Updated: Nov. 3, 2019 • 11:30 PM ET
The Washington Wizards are looking for a return to the postseason.
The Washington Wizards recently added Rod Thorn as an executive. He’s a Hall of Fame contributor and architect of the early 2000’s New Jersey Nets teams that made the NBA Finals twice. He chaired USA Basketball’s Men’s National Team Selection Committee in 1992, 1996 and 2000. All three years resulted in gold medals, including the 1992 “Dream Team.” This is a huge addition to the Wizards, and they’ll improve because of it.
From 1978-1985, Thorn was the general manager of the Chicago Bulls. In the ’78-’79 season, Chicago finished with a 31-51 record. By 1980, the Bulls ended with a 45-37 record, defeating the New York Knicks 2-0 in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs and losing in a four-game sweep to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals. The ’80-’81 season was Thorn’s best at the helm of the Bulls.
From 1981-1985, the Bulls high-water mark was 38 wins in the ’84-’85 season, one that saw Thorn get fired in March and Jerry Krause take over. Thorn had another memorable moment in Chicago, however, drafting Michael Jordan third-overall in the 1984 NBA Draft.
After serving USA Basketball, Thorn took over as the Nets general manager on June 2, 2000. The Nets finished the 1999-2000 campaign with a 31-51 record, sixth in the Atlantic Division. The team, however, had some talent and relevant players in Kerry Kittles, Keith Van Horn, Stephon Marbury, Kendall Gill, Lucious Harris and Gheorghe Muresan.
On June 27, 2000, Thorn hired former Los Angeles Lakers great Byron Scott as head coach. The next day, Thorn drafted Cincinnati power forward Kenyon Martin No. 1 overall, but the team took a small dip in the 2000-01 year with a 26-56 record, sixth in the Atlantic. Thorn, however, continued to improve his group in the summer of 2001.
In the 2001 NBA Draft, the Nets selected Eddie Griffin seventh-overall and Brian Scalabrine with the 25th pick of the second round. On the same day, they traded Griffin to the Houston Rockets for shooting guard Brandon Armstrong, center Jason Collins and small forward Richard Jefferson. Armstrong, Collins and Jefferson quickly became key contributors for the team with Scalabrine becoming an essential part of the rotation and a good role player.
On July 18, 2001, Thorn made the biggest splash of the era for the Nets, trading “Starbury,” Johnny Newman and Soumaila Samake to the Phoenix Suns for point guard Jason Kidd and center Chris Dudley. Kidd was already a budding superstar who was named an NBA All-Star in 1996, ’98 and 2000, All-NBA First Team in 1999 and 2000, NBA All-Defensive First Team in 1999 and the NBA All-Defensive Second Team in 2000. He was the NBA’s co-Rookie of the Year in 1995 with Detroit Pistons forward Grant Hill, NBA All-Rookie First Team in 1995 and the NBA assists leader in 1999 and 2000.
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Over the next two seasons, the Nets flew up the standings and onto worldwide TV sets. They completed the 2001-02 season with a 52-30 record and entered the playoffs as the Atlantic Division winner. They then disposed of the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals, the Charlotte Hornets in the semifinals and the Celtics in the Eastern Finals. This pitted the Nets against the powerful Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant Los Angeles Lakers, a dynastic team that swept New Jersey in four games.
Thorn had built a group that reached the NBA Finals, but couldn’t get over the hump. In an attempt to win it all, he traded Todd MacCulloch and Van Horn to the Philadelphia 76ers for Dikembe Mutombo. Scott led the Nets to back-to-back NBA Finals appearances, defeating the Bucks (4-2), Celtics (4-0) and Pistons (4-0) in the Eastern Conference playoffs. The team had a 49-33 record and won the division for the second consecutive season. Players like Rodney Rogers and Mutombo gave New Jersey more size, but it wasn’t enough to beat the San Antonio Spurs.
Led by head coach Gregg Popovich, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Tim Duncan and David Robinson, the Spurs were in the middle of their dynasty. San Antonio had an embarrassment of riches with Steve Kerr, defensive stalwart Bruce Bowen, Speedy Claxton and Steven Jackson. “The Admiral” and Duncan provided a formidable duo inside, overwhelming the Nets four games to two. “The Twin Towers” were the cornerstone of the Spurs.
Even though Thorn didn’t get the Nets over the top, he faced some of the best teams the NBA has ever seen. He will improve the Wizards from top to bottom and should be a major voice in any room he is in.